SMOKE AND MIRRORS….I was all ready to give Arnold some props when I read this story in the LA Times tonight:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today signed new gambling compacts with representatives of five Indian tribes, securing a $1-billion payment to the state this year, helping to close the coming year’s fiscal budget gap.

A billion dollars. Not bad! That’s less than he talked about during the campaign, but more than he projected in his preliminary budget in January.

But then I read this:

The $1-billion payment to the state will be financed by a bond repaid over 18 years. Upon repayment of the bond, the tribes will then make annual payments to the state until 2030, when the compact expires.

So it turns out that Arnold didn’t negotiate a deal get an additional billion dollars a year from the tribes. He didn’t negotiate a deal to get half a billion dollars from the tribes.

He caved in and negotiated a deal to get a lousy $60 million or so per year from the tribes, less than 5% of what he claimed he could get during the campaign. And then he blew 18 years worth of the money all at once for this year’s budget.

It’s just more smoke and mirrors. But the headlines will all say he got a billion dollars. Hooray for Arnold.